Sunday, October 20, 2019

Is a simple act of kindness enough?

When he stepped onto the subway car, a reader, we'll call him Bart, could tell right away that a fellow passenger was having some issues with mobility. The man sitting in a seat next to one of the doors "shouted out to ask what station the train was stopped at," writes Bart. Bart saw the man held two tall walking canes taped together, the kind of canes typically used by people who had impaired vision.

As the train continued, Bart noticed the same behavior at each stop. At the fifth stop, Bart arrived at his destination. When the doors opened, he let about a half-dozen others leave the train and then exited the doors himself. Only a few steps out of the door he heard the man with two canes tapping them against the door as he tried to exit.

Bart walked back to the train door, held his hand against the door so it wouldn't start to close before the man had fully exited, telling the man what he was doing. The man thanked him.

"If you turn to your left you'll be heading toward the exit," Bart writes that he told the man. The exit was a good 50 yards away from where Bart and the man exited the train. When the man still seemed disoriented, Bart asked him if he wanted to take his arm so Bart could lead him to the station's exit. Again, the man thanked him and took Bart's arm.

They walked slowly and as they did the man told Bart that he was homeless, that his family lived in a different state, and that he didn't want to burden them. But he also told him that he came to this stop on the subway because a local restaurant often offered him a hot meal. He let Bart know that he appreciated his help and asked if he could guide him to the door to the public restroom, which Bart agreed to do.

As he was saying goodbye and had begun walking away, the man said to Bart, "You told me you could help with some money." Bart writes that he knew the man was homeless and in need, but they'd never talked about money. "I told him to have a good day and I walked off."

Bart now wonders if it was wrong to leave a person who seemed so clearly in need without having given him some money. "It was more that I was taken aback after helping him off the train and to the restroom," writes Bart. "I felt like I was being accused of lying to him and I just wanted to leave. His need for money was pretty likely more than any discomfort I felt."

Bart did the right thing by helping the man get off the train. That the man was walking quite close to the train tracks after getting off the train makes his act even more admirable. He has no reason to feel guilty about not giving the man money. If he had that would have been fine, but that he took the time to ensure the man's safety and get him to where he wanted to go was a kind act in and of itself. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin
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